Literature in a Changing World 1


Course Objective

This course aims to (1) familiarise students with the multiple voices
and layers in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the most influential
masterpiece of English medieval literary history; (2) relate this
literary text to the social and political (European) contexts in which
it was written and diffused; (3) train students in analysing and using
secondary sources representing various theoretical approaches.

Course Content

Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, narrated by a highly
heterogeneous group of not so devout pilgrims, are generally considered
to be an important landmark in the formation of the idea of
'Englishness' and nationhood - against the French cultural hegemony
since the Norman Conquest.

In this course, we will read and critically analyse a selection of the
multi-layered prologues and tales contained in this 'estates satire' by
the 'Father of English poetry'. For a more diverse audience than ever
before witnessed in European literature, he celebrates 'difference' and
plurality, and juxtaposes things sacred and profane, low and high genres
and classes - all to be explored and examined before one might be able
to draw any conclusion at all. Inspired by his illustrious French and
Italian predecessors (Jean de Meun in the Roman de la Rose, Dante in the
Commedia and Boccaccio in the Decamerone), Chaucer daringly challenges
various authorities and universal truths in vernacular English. He
raises significant questions and moral issues which students are invited
to compare to our current world of globalisation and (anti-)European and
nationalist tendencies.

Our explorations will include scholarly work on Chaucer's reworking of
famous sources, interpretations inspired by new theoretical approaches
(new historicism, postcolonialism, gender and queer studies), as well as
modern remediations of The Canterbury Tales on screen (Pasolini, recent
re-workings of tales for the BBC).

Teaching Methods

Seminar; 4 + 2 hours per week. Attendance (80%) is compulsory.

Method of Assessment

Active participation (includes preparation of weekly written and oral
assignments): 60%; final essay: 40%. In order to pass the course,
students need a pass grade (5.5 or higher) for their essay as well as
for their average grade.

Entry Requirements

Students should be sufficiently proficient both in speaking and writing
in English to take part in this third-year course. Students should be
aware that the level of theoretical reflection in this course is
accordingly high.
Students must have taken part in the modules “Literature, Culture, and
Society” and “Genre and Literary Analysis.”


In advance of the course, students will have obtained a copy of the
following paperback edition of the Canterbury Tales, and bring it to
• Geoffrey Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. A Verse Translation by David
Wright, with an Introduction and Notes by Christopher Cannon. Oxford
University Press, 2011 (collection Oxford World’s Classics).

The reading list will be announced in the syllabus posted on Canvas at
the start of the course.

Target Audience

BA students in the English track of Literature and Society; exchange
students pursuing a bachelor in English literature or literary studies.

Additional Information

Theme: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in context. This course is obligatory
in the third year.

General Information

Course Code L_ELBALES304
Credits 6 EC
Period P4
Course Level 300
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator dr. J.F. van der Meulen
Examiner dr. J.F. van der Meulen
Teaching Staff dr. J.F. van der Meulen

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

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